CWC Coalition - News
U.S. Reaches New CW Stockpile Elimination Milestone
Published: 15 July 2021
Author: Leanne Quinn
The Pueblo Chemical Agent-Destruction Pilot Plant (PCAPP) in Colorado, United States, announced June 30 that 75% of the mustard agent stored at the U.S. Army Pueblo Chemical depot has been destroyed, marking an important milestone towards total stockpile elimination.
Using the explosive destruction system (EDS), neutralization and biotreatment, and Static Detonation Chambers (SDC), PCAPP has eliminated 1,961.4 U.S. tons of blister agent mustard in projectiles and mortar rounds since major operations began in 2016. PCAPP and its sister site, the Blue Grass Chemical Agent-Destruction Pilot Plant (BGCAPP) in Kentucky, are the only two remaining chemical weapons destruction facilities in the U.S.
As a member state to the Chemical Weapons Convention, the United States is obligated to destroy all of their remaining chemical weapon stockpiles. The United States has declared 27,770 metric tons (MT) of Category 1 chemical weapons at nine stockpile sites. As of May 31, 26,804 MT of its Category 1 chemical weapons have been verifiably destroyed since its first destruction facility began operating in 1990 on Johnston Atoll in the Pacific Ocean.
Once a nation becomes a member state to the Convention it has 30 days to declare its chemical weapon stockpiles and related facilities, and 10 years to complete stockpile destruction.
The United States Senate approved the Chemical Weapons Convention on April 25th, 1997, and the Convention entered into force four days later on April 29. In accordance with the Convention, the US was required to eliminate its stockpile by April 29, 2007, with the possibility of a five-year extension until 2012. This proved to be an underestimation of the effort required to safely demilitarize all nine declared CW stockpiles: the US has since missed a 2017 and 2021 deadline extension and is now facing a final deadline extension of September 30, 2023.
During the June 30th public meeting of the Colorado Citizens’ Advisory Commission, U.S. National Authority for the Chemical Weapons Convention and acting Deputy Secretary Assistant at the State Department, Laura Gross, emphasized the United States’ commitment to meeting the 2023 deadline and the diplomatic importance of completing stockpile elimination.
“From our perspective at the State Department, we want to be able to […] highlight the excellent work that’s done here and to be able to demonstrate the commitment that the United States has against the use of chemical weapons,” Gross said. “That’s why it’s so important to be able to maintain that commitment to the timeline […] because we have adversaries in Russia, China, Iran, and Syria, who are using or developing chemical weapons for potential use and we really want to be working at the OPCW to deter them.”
“We don’t want these countries to have the opportunity to use potential delays against us,” Gross added later in the meeting.
Russia, which completed its chemical weapons stockpile first-stage destruction in 2017, has been critical of the United States’ missed deadlines. Russia fails to note that the US, Britain, Canada, Germany, and several other CWC States Parties directly helped Russia with some $2 billion in funding for its own CW destruction program, including technology development, public outreach and education, and facility construction since the mid-1990s. Also, the other six CWC member countries who declared chemical weapons stockpiles – Albania, India, Iraq, Libya, South Korea, and Syria – all missed initial deadlines for CW destruction operations.
Shortly after Russia completed its stockpile destruction, Russian president Vladimir Putin stated that the US missed deadline “does not look proper for a nation that claims to be a champion of nonproliferation and control.”
During the 25th annual Conference of States Parties to the Chemical Weapons Convention in November 2020, Russian delegate Alexander Shulgin pointed out that “only the United States possesses declared chemical weapons stockpiles” and said that he “call[ed] on our American partners to follow our example and accelerate the destruction of their declared stockpiles as much as possible to complete this process ahead of the established deadline.”
While the State Department projects that the U.S. will meet the current September 2023 deadline, the Department of Defense has stated that operations will be completed by December 31, 2023.